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Agnes Musonda of Zambia’s Center for Infectious Disease Research meets with members of the Mphamba Village community to provide cervical cancer education.

Jane and Diana's Story: Cervical Cancer

January 18, 2018 3 minute Read
by Temi Omilabu
Their experience represents the reality of living in a country where cervical cancer incidence is high and access to screening and education is low.
Agnes interviews Jane to help PRRR share her story.

As Mphamba village headwoman in the Eastern Province of Zambia, Jane* is a well-respected and active member of her community. Like many in her village, Jane knows too well the grief of losing friends and family to cervical cancer.

Jane’s mother-in-law, Diana*, took the village’s standard approach to symptom onset: she sought help from traditional healers who administered medicines such as roots, leaves, and herbal liquids. As Diana’s health continued to decline, she became so weak that she was eventually taken to the local hospital. By then, her cervical cancer had reached an advanced stage. Nurses had no choice but to administer painkillers and antibiotics to manage her other infections and keep her as comfortable as possible. After some time, Diana died of cervical cancer, like many women had before her.her community.

 Since losing Diana, Jane has become an advocate for women in her village and helps them access cervical cancer screenings. Jane also strives to instill awareness, especially among school-aged girls who can be vaccinated against HPV, the virus that causes most cervical cancers.

Jane and Diana’s story represents the reality of living in a country where cervical cancer incidence is high. Jane and Diana show us that PRRR’s work to end cervical cancer is far from over.

Like Diana, many women who seek care for cervical cancer are already at an advanced stage, especially in areas without cervical cancer screening programs. 40% of women with advanced-stage cervical cancer are under the age of 35, an age when many women are contributing to their communities, raising children, and caring for their families.

In Zambia, cervical cancer kills more women than any other cancer. 58 out of every 100,000 women get the disease. That’s 9 times greater than in the U.S. And, more than 640,000 Zambian women live with HIV/AIDS, which makes them 4-5 times more likely to develop cervical cancer.

Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon’s work in Zambia

Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon began supporting cervical cancer control programs in 2011, when President Bush announced Zambia as the organization’s first partner country.

PRRR programs in Zambia have vaccinated 48,000 girls against HPV and screened 278,000 women for cervical cancer. PRRR and its partners have helped to educate Zambians about cervical cancer risks and practical measures they can take to avoid preventable, untimely deaths.

Looking ahead, PRRR will push forward in its effort to reduce deaths from cervical cancer, particularly among HIV-positive women. PRRR will continue to provide screening and treatment, increase awareness of cervical cancer, and promote early detection. Scalable, innovative approaches to sustainability, financing, and service-delivery remain vital to PRRR’s long-term impact.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of the women